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Moving new children's hospital from Mater 'will add €50m to bill'

MOVING the proposed National Children's Hospital from the Mater site will add at least €50m to the final bill, backers claimed yesterday.

Senior medics with the Mater, Rotunda maternity hospital and Temple Street Children's Hospital insisted that moving to another Dublin location would result in a delay of at least two and a half years, and add €50m in extra costs.

This is because a new facility would have to be designed and land purchased to accommodate it, they insisted.

They said the hospital can be built at the Mater more quickly and at less cost than any other location.

Revised plans for the National Children's Hospital (NCH) were launched yesterday in the new Mater adult hospital which will open on a phased basis from next month.

All patients will have single rooms in the €284m facility, which is designed so that critical areas including accident and emergency, intensive care and operating theatres are adjacent to similar departments in the children's hospital.

The new NCH would be six storeys lower than the original design, which rose to 74 metres over 17 storeys.

A maximum height of 11 storeys will be used on the site, which the Mater says is allowed under planning rules.

Education and research facilities which were to be located in the upper levels have been moved to the original Mater Hospital building dating from 1851, which has been donated for the project, meaning the overall height can be reduced.

Planning guidelines from Dublin City Council allow buildings of up to 11 storeys to be built on the site, but the Mater did not release images showing the impact the revised plans would have on surrounding streets, or the building's height.

One image released showed a view from Eccles Street with the hospital represented by a 'block' about four storeys high. No other images were available.

The revised plans mean the building will have a bigger footprint across the campus, increasing in area from two to three hectares, but will be lower in height. It could end up costing less than €650m because of lower construction prices.

The redesign was necessary after An Bord Pleanala refused permission last February for the €650m hospital, which rose to 17 storeys, primarily on height grounds.

Since then, alternative locations have been proposed including sites at the Mater, St James's, Tallaght and Connolly hospitals, which would all allow a children's hospital to be built beside an existing adult facility.

The Mater's backers expressed their "disappointment" that other hospitals had offered alternative sites in recent weeks.

Temple Street Children's Hospital medical board chairperson Dr Stephanie Ryan said at least three independent reviews had identified the north Dublin city site as being the best location, especially given its transport links and range of medical specialities available.

A new adult hospital was due to open on a phased basis over the coming weeks, she said, and a site had been earmarked for a new Rotunda maternity hospital which would result in a tri-located facility -- a children's, adults and maternity hospital on the one site -- which was in the best interest of patients.

Master of the Rotunda, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, said the children's hospital could be delivered on the Mater site three years faster than anywhere else and could be open in 2016.

The plans will be considered by National Paediatric Hospital Review Group before it recommends a site to Health Minister Dr James Reilly this month.

Irish Independent